I have a Windows 2003 RRAS VPN with two clients (both running Windows 7). The VPN works as expected, except that I am unable to access any of the three machines in the network using their Windows names.

The server has a static IP, and the clients are assigned IPs dynamically in a specified address range. However, every time a client disconnects and reconnects it is likely to be assigned a different IP.

I have put the server's IP in my hosts file which permits me to reach the machine in Windows Explorer using \\MachineName. \\192.168.150.XXX works to access the other machines, but as noted this changes.

What do I need to do to get \\MachineName to work dynamically as the IPs change? Is this a WINS issue?


This is a DNS issue. You need to make sure that your VPN clients use your internal DNS server when they're connected via VPN.

  • Thanks @Joel. I have tried putting pointing clients to the DNS server to which the Windows 2003 box points, this didn't work. – digitalmaps Feb 11 '12 at 3:00
  • Can you do an nslookup from a VPN client against that DNS server? Example nslookup google.com IP.of.internal.DNS – Joel E Salas Feb 11 '12 at 3:26

To enable name based communication in a private subnet without the use of DNS, you'll need to enable NetBios over TCP/IP. This enables the machines to query NetBIOS name (the machine names) through broadcasting name queries and thus discovering client addresses by name.

To enable NetBT, go to Advanced TCP/IP Settings for the interface you want to enable NetBT for, and select the WINS tab, as explained here(Win2003) and here(Win7)

  • this was a new idea for me, thank you. I turned on NetBios on the server (was already turned on for clients). Unfortunately no name resolution. Opened up ports 139 on all machines. No luck. – digitalmaps Feb 11 '12 at 3:02
  • Do you use Windows DHCP? – Mathias R. Jessen Feb 11 '12 at 11:13
  • No DHCP server on the box. VPN IPs assigned, I believe, by RRAS. – digitalmaps Feb 11 '12 at 13:33

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